He has wanted many things in his life, but nothing as much as her. Most of the year it looks inconspicuous, downright ugly. It has no leaves or even a stem, and its roots stretch like spider legs over the trunks of swamp ash trees or alligator apples. A brownish web, gnarled like the tree bark she clings to.

Only as soon as its white flowers open for a few days in summer, every year between June and August, when people are almost dying from the heat, does it transform into something very special. Its flowers float through the air like a dancing star and exude a scent of sweet apples.

The ghost orchid, Dendrophylax lindenii, is considered the queen of orchids, their star. It was first discovered in 1844 by the Belgian plant collector Jean Jules Linden in Cuba; it also grows in the Bahamas and Florida. In the wild, the ghost orchid is strictly protected; unlike other orchids, it is almost impossible to breed it en masse. It is so picky about the conditions it needs to survive.

John Laroche wanted to own her at any cost.

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